Replacing Alberta’s RCMP with a provincial police force would be worthwhile only if it provides a big crime-fighting boost, says a central Alberta reeve.
“Unless there’s going to be some tangible benefit to removing the RCMP, and developing a whole new level of infrastructure and bureaucracy, there has to be some huge benefits,” said Clearwater County Reeve Tim Hoven on Thursday.
The Alberta government is seeking consultants to do a detailed study with a cost-benefit analysis on replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force, similar to those in Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland. It is expected the report would be ready by the end of April 2021.
Creating a provincial police force was among the recommendations made in a June report by a “fair deal” panel looking at how Alberta could strengthen its role in Confederation.
“For me, it comes down to cost and service,” said Hoven. “I’d really want to see the terms of reference for what the province is looking for.”
Alberta spends about $260 million a year on the RCMP, with the federal government picking up $112 million.
Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood, like Hoven, would want to see a lot more detail on what is proposed before supporting or dismissing the provincial police idea.
“I’m not sure as to the extent of what they want to do with the provincial police,” said Wood.
“I do know there have been lots of asks to have more police presence in our rural communities. I would hope that if the province does make changes, they will take into account that rural Alberta wants to see that there is a sufficient number of police officers to look after rural crime.”
The expectations for better police coverage have risen among rural municipalities since the province insisted that they pay a share of the costs.
Rural and small municipalities have to pick up 10 per cent of their policing costs this year, gradually increasing their contribution to 30 per cent by 2023.
At the same time, the province has promised to add 300 positions — most of them heading to rural detachments — by 2024. About 80 are expected to be on the job this year.
“I look at it like this,” said Wood: “Honestly, I don’t know if it really matters whether it’s RCMP or provincial police.
“We do need to have more patrols in rural areas to curb some of the crime that’s happening.”
RCMP are doing a great job, but they must cope with a justice system that isn’t working, he said.
“They have one huge hurdle, and that hurdle right now is that they catch the thieves and the courts let them go. It’s got to be very frustrating for RCMP right now to see the revolving door that’s happening with the criminal justice system we have.”
He questions the value of replacing Mounties with provincial police officers, who will face the same justice system issues that have little to do with the job they are doing.